Harnessing Disruption for Sustainability

GENEVA – After decades of reluctance on the part of world leaders, a rapid, smooth, and purposeful transition toward sustainable development seems unlikely. Indeed, throughout human history, such major changes have more often been forced upon the world by circumstances, with leaders focusing on shorter-term concerns like political turmoil or economic stagnation until serious disruptions to their economies and societies arise.

But this need not be the case. Policymakers can develop solutions that leverage immediate challenges to guide the shift toward a more sustainable, inclusive future.

This year, which has been dubbed “the year of sustainable development,” provides an ideal opportunity in this regard. At high-level meetings in Sendai, Japan, in March and in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in July, world leaders will pursue closer collaboration on disaster-risk reduction and on mobilizing finance for development, respectively. In September, the United Nations will launch its Sustainable Development Goals, to serve as the framework for global development efforts until 2030.

Moreover, global climate negotiations will reach a critical point in December, when world leaders meet for the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris. And the agendas of the forthcoming G-7 and G-20 summits will both feature measures to combat climate change.